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burning wood vs fossil fuel

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It’s a controversial claim, one that’s been disputed by wood-fuel advocates. It’s all immensely complicated to model, let alone keep track of under DECC’s reporting rules. Coal is usually considered the dirtiest form of power generation, with sources like gas coming in at less than half that, at 437 kilograms per megawatt hour. Dovetail Partners, a nonprofit research group based in Minneapolis, for example, concluded in a 2012 study that biomass harvesting gives landowners an incentive to maintain forests rather than converting them to agriculture. Gunn co-authored a 2010 study that concluded the amount of carbon released per unit of energy is actually greater for forest biomass than it is for fossil fuels. If Drax is burning wood residues like twigs, small branches or sawdust that would otherwise have been burnt as waste, then the emissions will be below 100 kilograms per megawatt hour, or at least ten times lower than burning coal. The Energy News Network is an editorially independent project of   If you chop down a tree and burn it, you can’t possibly emit more than was absorbed in the first place, so the whole thing is effectively carbon neutral, or zero kilograms per megawatt hour. Coronavirus: What could lifestyle changes mean for tackling climate change? Published under a CC license. Most of its supplies come from north America. Guest post: Why does land warm up faster than the oceans? What it’s displacing: Biomass has a hard time competing with natural gas financially, and the same is true for carbon emissions. “[W]here biomass replaces a relatively GHG efficient fossil fuel like natural gas, the time needed to pay back carbon debts and realize the benefits of biomass can increase substantially,” the paper says. You are welcome to reproduce unadapted material in full for non-commercial use, credited ‘Carbon Brief’ with a link to the article. Converting the plant to burn wood destroys forests and emits more carbon, it says. Several other DECC scenarios also show that burning wood in UK power plants can be worse than coal. On a carbon basis, wood pellets compete with coal and natural gas much better in thermal or combined-heat-and-power facilities. Others have looked at similar variables and reached different conclusions about biomass’ carbon profile. Gunn co-authored a 2010 studythat concluded the amount of carbon released per unit of energy is actually greater for forest biomass than it is for fos… Fossil Fuel Fossil fuel such as coal, oil and gas are also derived from biological material, however material that absorbed co2 from the atmosphere many millions of years ago. Unlike coal or natural gas, they argue, wood is a low-carbon fuel. Under business-as-usual those trees would have continued to store carbon in the forest, but instead the carbon would be released into the atmosphere. When trees grow they absorb carbon dioxide and lock it away in wood. Drax says it uses wood from thinnings and off-cuts, and that this reduces emissions by 80 per cent compared to burning coal. In the short term, burning wood for energy results in a net increase in carbon emissions, he says. “If that doesn’t hold, then the whole benefit doesn’t hold,” says Gunn. A Drax spokesperson tells Carbon Brief there’s no way to directly compare the two methodologies because the calculator is theoretical and “does not model real situations”. Guest post: Are low- and middle-income countries bound to eat more meat? Feedstock: What are you burning, and what would have happened to it otherwise? Factcheck: What is the carbon footprint of streaming video on Netflix? Coal-fired power stations emit on average 1,018 kilograms of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour of electricity. Thanks. Receive a Daily or Weekly summary of the most important articles direct to your inbox, just enter your email below. Increased demand for wood fuels might motivate a logging company to harvest a few more trees than it would have otherwise. 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That’s why DECC combined them into a massive biomass calculator. It’s a misconception that wood fuels are carbon neutral, minus the energy spent to harvest, process, and transport them, he says. Whole trees produce a greater carbon debt than only using the tops and limbs of trees harvested for other purposes, but even those forest leftovers affect the carbon equation. It’s a misconception that wood fuels are carbon neutral, minus the energy spent to harvest, process, and transport them, he says. Is it whole logs or just branches, twigs and sawdust that can’t be used to make furniture? Sustainable forestry practices can help well-designed biomass systems repay that carbon debt and then some, but the carbon benefits typically accrue years or decades into the future, he says. Now the final calculator is out, can we say what climate-friendly biomass power look like? Heat vs. electricity: The life-cycle carbon emissions from generating electricity at a utility-scale biomass facility are about three times greater per MWh than emissions from a similar-sized natural gas electric power plant and 50 percent greater than a coal-fired electricity plant, according to Gunn’s research. Biomass from sources like this produces emissions higher than natural gas, though still lower than coal. As for the environmental benefits, obviously, when you burn wood you’re not burning fossil fuel. A biomass cogeneration plant would emit just slightly more carbon than a coal cogeneration plant, with the difference being less than 3 percent. Author has 3.9K answers and 1.5M answer views. Last year we wrote about this DECC biomass calculator, before it had been formally published, but we weren’t able to reach any firm conclusions on the climate impacts of burning wood. Is it from a plantation or a natural forest? “The degree to which biomass energy system can reduce carbon emissions compared to fossil fuels is directly related to establishment and management of harvesting regimes, forest types, fuel transport, and efficiency,” the biomass group’s paper says. Let’s try to unpack things a little. If Drax burns wood from plantations that would otherwise have reverted to natural forest, or from regrowth forest converted to plantations then the carbon benefits are also significant, and emissions will come in at under 100 kg/MWh. This alleged “carbon debt” can range anywhere from 2 percent to 66 percent, depending on the type of material burned, what it’s displacing, and whether it’s used to generate heat or electricity, Gunn’s paper asserts. Is burning wood for energy worse for the climate than coal? Grow wood for lumber then gasify it into the hydrocarbons we need when it eventually gets thrown away. Nevertheless, it’s clear that some types of biomass can replace coal with positive effects for the climate. But what about demand for wood? Heating the Midwest, in its report calling for a 10 percent thermal biomass goal by 2025, promoted wood fuels’ potential to reduce global warming, but also acknowledged the complexity. By entering your email address you agree for your data to be handled in accordance with our Privacy Policy. When we burn wood, we’re releasing carbon into the atmosphere that might have otherwise been stored in that form for years, decades or centuries. The paper calls this a “living, humming, forest-destroying symbol of the shameful absurdity of European energy policies”. Webinar: What impact is Covid-19 having on global CO2 emissions. Or it might not. Wood — unlike oil, coal and natural gas — is not considered a fossil fuel. 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burning wood vs fossil fuel

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